Meet the captains and crews destined to sail on for eternity...

The Flying Dutchman

From up high in the crow’s nest, the Atlantic looked like a whirlpool, a dark, churning surge of waves and surf.

Far off, the swelling and eddying water crashed against the rocky shore of the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.

It was 4am, 11 July 1881. The Royal Navy ship, HMS Bacchante was fighting the waves to round the tip of Africa, on its way from Montevideo in Uruguay to Australia.

On board was a young midshipman called George. He was just 16, far away from home, far away from family.

George was Queen Victoria’s grandson, the Prince of Wales. One day, he’d be King George V. For now, he was training hard as a navy midshipman, dreaming of being an officer, a commander.

The young midshipman would one day be King George V, his face printed on stamps and money, recognisable to millions

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Suddenly, from the Crow’s Nest a shout.

‘Ship ahead!’ the lookout boy called.

Midshipman George raced onto the deck.

Later that day, he’d describe in his diary the ship spotted by the lookout, the ship he himself saw…

A strange red light as of a phantom ship all aglow, he wrote. In the midst of which red light the mast…

Others on board had seen it, too. Like the officer of the watch.

But then, the mysterious ship with its red glow simply disappeared. As if it had never been there at all.

At 4am the Flying Dutchman crossed our bows, George concluded in his diary.

All the sailors knew the story of the Flying Dutchman, knew its curse.

It was the phantom of the high seas. And it struck terror into their hearts.

Soon after, the lookout boy who’d seen the phantom ship first was climbing the mast, when he lost his footing.

In those few frantic seconds, he tried to grab hold of something, but couldn’t.

He fell to his death.

The curse of the Flying Dutchman had struck again.

What the future king made of his shipman’s death, is not known.

But it wouldn’t be the first death caused by the curse. And there are those that say it won’t be the last…

The phantom ship, the Flying Dutchman, it is said, has sailed for centuries. And will sail for many more.

Hundreds of years before, some say as far back as 1640, the Flying Dutchman was a merchant ship, journeying from the Netherlands round the Horn of Africa as many ships had done before.

The Cape of Good Hope is a rocky headland on the southern coast of South Africa

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It hit a storm. The captain was said to be drunk.

Desperate, the sailors begged the captain to change course, away from the dangerous rocks around the Cape of Good Hope.

The captain wouldn’t listen to their pleas. Instead, he drank more, singing sailing songs as the waves and the wind beat his ship from all sides.

A watery end was inevitable.

The Flying Dutchman hit the rocks.

An angry storm blew

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As the ship floundered and started to sink, salt water pouring into its bows, the captain cried, screamed at the stormy grey skies.

‘I’ll sail round the Cope,’ he shouted. ‘Even if it takes me to the end of time!’

And so, legend has it, the phantom ship was condemned to an eternity on the high seas, sailing through storms and heavy weather, manned by the stubborn captain and his poor crew.

The captain had brought the curse on himself. And since then, anyone who sees the ghost ship is condemned, too. To a death on the mighty sea, a grave at the bottom of the ocean…

It seems nothing more than an old sea-faring story, an old sailing superstition.

Except that the crew of HMS Bacchannte saw the Flying Dutchman with their own eyes.

And they weren’t the only ones.

Before the future king saw the phantom ship, it was seen by officers at a lighthouse on the Cape. A shadowy, red light surrounding it as it approached through the storm before disappearing.

In 1879, a steamer called the S.S. Pretoria changed course when its crew spotted the lights of the Flying Dutchman. In 1911, an American whaling ship reported almost colliding with it. As did a Nazi submarine during World War II, and a freight ship in 1959.

How can so many claim to have seen the ship that rides through the storm and vanishes?

A simple trick of the light, perhaps? But if so, how have so many men and women fallen for it?

Perhaps the mystery of the Flying Dutchman will never be solved.

Or not until doomsday, when that stubborn captain is finally released from his curse…

 

The Lady Lovibond

When the captain of the Lady Lovibond married the beautiful Annette in 1748, he celebrated his wedding with a party on board.

One of his sailors was so jealous of the captain and his beautiful wife, he attacked him. In the scuffle that broke out, the Lady Lovibond sank, drowning all on board.

The ship reappears, sailing along the coastline of Kent every 50 years…

 

HMS Eurydice

The ship went down in a storm off the Isle of Wight in 1878.

Since then, it has been spotted by a naval submarine in 1930, and in 1998, the Queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward, saw the ghost of the HMS Eurydice while on the Isle of Wight filming a documentary.

Did Prince Edward see a ghost ship?

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Københaven

For a while, Danish ship, the Københaven, was the largest in the world.

And then in 1928, while sailing from Argentina to Australia, it disappeared.

No-one knew what happened to it, and it remains one of maritime history’s biggest mysteries.

For years following the disappearance, there were reports of an unknown five-masted ship crossing the Pacific Ocean… a five-masted ship that matches exactly the description of the Københaven…

Where sails the Københaven?

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What do you think really happened to these legendary ships?